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Walberswick 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)

last modified May 12, 2014 09:46 AM
The Suffolk coastal village of Walberswick hosted test-pit excavations by secondary school students in this week's field academy.


Walberswick was a new settlement for the Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) last year and it proved to be an interesting contrast to most of the Currently Occupied Rural Settlements (CORS) investigated by Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA). On the basis of only nine test-pits dug in 2013, it appears that Walberswick did not decline in the late medieval period suggesting it was not as severely impacted by the Black Death as other East Anglian villages, many of which have a 50% drop in pottery usage after the 14th century compared to before.

With the assistance of Walberswick Local History Group and particularly Philip Kett, ACA returned to Walberswick this week to collect further evidence. Another nine test-pits were dug by 29 Year 9 students from Alde Valley School, Bungay High School and Sir John Leman High School. Our base again was at The Stables, with thanks to the owners and community for hosting us there for the two days of digging.

The test-pit sites were widely scattered across the village and included The Bell Inn public house by the seashore and a property on the village green nearby. A couple of test-pits were sited on Leveretts Lane, close to where a small sherd of Anglo-Saxon pottery was found in 2013, and another couple of pit sites were on the main routeway (The Street) through the village. There was also a test-pit on Church Lane, close to the parish church, and one at the end of Palmers Lane, further inland. Compared to the tough clay of last week's HEFA in Rampton, the sandy soil in Walberswick was a joy to dig and sieve. One group of four students were so quick that they excavated two test-pits to natural in just two days!

Pottery and small finds were identified by John Newman, a freelance archaeologist based in Suffolk. Test-pit 1 on The Street found a possible medieval clay oven (shown right), similar to a feature John recently found in Dunwich. Test-pit 4 close to the village green found a fragment of a decorated bone handle which could be late medieval or early post-medieval in date. Two test-pits found possible sherds of Anglo-Saxon pottery, but require verification. The final pottery report will be on the Walberswick project report page for 2014 here soon.

The ACA team were given a preview of a film composed by Piers Ford-Crush of Walberswick Local History Group from footage of last year's excavation. Whilst in Walberswick again for the field academy, Carenza Lewis was filmed talking through the results of the test-pit digging to add to the end of the film. Photographs of the 2014 HEFA were featured in today's (Friday 2nd May) edition of the East Anglian Daily Times, which can be viewed on-line here.

Today, the students visited the University of Cambridge and were hosted by Newnham College, Robinson College and Magdalene College for lunch and a tour. Maddy Lawrence-Jones, Schools Liaison Officer for Magdalene delievered the talk, with an emphasis on post-16 options, A-Level choices and choosing degree subjects. Afterwards, one student said she "especially enjoyed looking round the university and talking about our futures."

In feedback after the event, 88% of the students rated the HEFA as 'excellent' or 'good'. One student took the time to write on her feedback form: "Thank you for the skills, knowledge, and a wonderful experience that will help me into the future. I have learnt so much and am very grateful for the experience :-)"

The next HEFA takes place in Sawtry, Cambridgeshire, the week after next.

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